Each month, James Franklin, online and educational resources officer at Culture Vannin, looks at a particular place in the island and gives a guide to some of its folklore. In the first of a new series, he focuses on Port Erin.
There is not a creek or cranny in this island, but what is haunted, either with fairies or ghosts.
This is probably as true today as when it was first noted nearly 300 years ago.
It was the author of this, George Waldron, who first wrote of the mermaids then to be found on Port Erin shore.
They were a regular sight in the 1650s, playing about on the sand in the moonlight.
So, some men daringly laid out nets one night and caught one. They took this mermaid home and cared for her, but she remained silent and refused all food and drink.
After three days of this, the men grew scared of what might happen to them out on the sea and so they let her go. The mermaid glided on her tail over the sand and splashed back into the sea.
When her own kind came to ask her what life was like up on dry land, she reported it as ‘nothing very wonderful,’ but noted our ignorance for throwing away the water we boil eggs in!
A man named Kelly also came across a mermaid on the shore at Port Erin. Stranded, she appealed for help and he helped her back into the sea.
Before diving beneath the waves, the mermaid put a blessing on Kelly’s family, so that none of the women of his line would ever have long childbirths. This still held true when it was recorded around 140 years ago, but perhaps a Port Erin Kelly can let us know if it still does today?
Just above the shore is St Catherine’s Well (Chibbyr Catreeney in Manx), close to which an early Christian chapel once stood.
This was once one of the Isle of Man’s most revered holy wells, and its water was legendary for its cures, especially if taken on the first Sunday of August.
Don’t expect much from it today though, as the tap is now piped from the mains, leaving the water to empty out into the sand below.
Before the onset of tourism, the town did not reach too far beyond the shore. Today’s promenade was then a rough and narrow track towards Bradda, and it was here that a man was walking one night.
When he reached where the Belle Vue Hotel used to be, he heard the sound of a great hunt coming towards him, complete with horses’ hooves, cracking whips and barking dogs. He leapt aside into the doorway of the building there and the hunt rushed past… but all was invisible to him.
Such fairy hunts are known all around the town and beyond, especially around Fairy Hill, for obvious reasons!
Further up that road towards Bradda you need to be taking care. Even today, Spaldrick Dip (just by the old telephone box) is known as a place where you might meet a buggane. This terrible monster lives up the small glen towards the golf course and it occasionally comes out to chase people along the road.
If you ever meet this buggane yourself, we recommend doing what someone in that position did in the 1890s, and call out the Lord’s name. That is always a good way to scare off a buggane!
There isn’t space here to speak of the rampaging pigs, eternal blood stains, ghosts and fairy-loves elsewhere in Port Erin. But maybe we’ll find similar tales somewhere else in the island next month.